The MBA Nightmare

Here’s a story that might keep you up at night. I was talking with a client who had graduated with his MBA just a year ago. He was upset that things had not changed for him in his current company. No raise. No promotion. No new opportunities. In fact, no one even recognized that he earned his MBA. “My job doesn’t require an MBA but I have one. Now I worry that my current employer will see me as overqualified, likely to get bored and leave, further damaging my career mobility,” he explained.

He also heard that if he doesn’t move up soon that recruiters will think he’s not a real go-getter. I had to ask about that. He felt that while he was working his day job and earning his MBA at night, he would be viewed as a high achiever. However, since he graduated and stayed in the same job he was in before starting his MBA, he would be considered somewhat “unmotivated” if he remained in that job for several years.   “Wouldn’t employers wonder why I went through the effort and money to earn the MBA and then did nothing with it?” He worried that his job title wasn’t representative of his skill sets and felt that employers would avoid him because he wasn’t working towards his potential. The one degree that was supposed to offer a buffet of opportunity, career growth and money failed to deliver on all accounts.

That’s his story. What do you think? Have you seen that before? Are you wondering if things went according to his plan? Did he fail to plan? Did the college fail to help him? Did his company fail to utilize his talents? Who’s to blame for his stagnation?

This is not a good place to be. It’s not a good feeling and eventually it can destroy your job satisfaction and happiness.   So what went wrong? Here’s a few observations.

Too much hope. Too many students believe that the MBA experience will provide for their needs. What are their needs? Many identify money and opportunity as their main reasons for earning an MBA. But how does spending two years of your life and $80,000 meet these needs. If you consider that you give the college money and work your butt off for two years with only a piece of paper to show for it, you might feel the need to rethink this approach. You don’t get money at the end of the program. You get a bill. The agreement you have with the school is the opportunity to learn new skills from professors. It’s not a guarantee that you will. You have to put effort into it. That’s all. If you want anything beyond that, you have to go get it yourself. Working professionals who earn their degree have the expectation that their current company will recognize them, reward them and give them a new office beside the CEO. If you want to understand the probability of this happening, look around. Connect with MBA professionals and ask about their experience. They’ll tell you that it doesn’t happen. Why would I give you more money to do a job that doesn’t require an MBA to start with? You were hired to do that job. If you want to go develop yourself further, that’s great but I still need you to do the job I hired you for. Hope is not a strategy. You can’t wait on something to happen.

Lack of action. If you consider that you wanted money and opportunity from your MBA, you must realize that the college can’t give that to you. That’s not what they do. They educate. That’s it. Move on. You need a company to do that or you need to start your own. My client was sitting in a job with a big bill and the same needs he had before starting the MBA. He hasn’t filled his needs yet. So why did he stop his pursuit? It was obvious that the mere possession of the MBA was insufficient. It’s a credential that has value. That’s why you spent time and money on it. But if you are in an organization that doesn’t care, it doesn’t have value to them and your needs won’t be met. So why are you still waiting on them to reward you? It won’t happen. Do you think that waiting longer will help? Go-getters are always in action. They do what they can with what they have. They don’t stop until the needs are met. Then, they find new ones and start all over.

The wrong attitude. Growing your career is tough. There are a lot of barriers that are put in front of us. Sure, some kids grow up in luxury and have free entry to the top echelons of organizations. For those of us who don’t, that doesn’t matter. We have to build our own success. Education is just a part of the journey. There is never a point in the journey where we can simply rest on our credentials.   This week I worked with numerous professionals who were laid off. Their company is struggling to survive. These professionals had law degrees, engineering degrees, CPAs, etc. They are smart people and yet they have just experienced what appears to be a setback. What do you do? Just stop working? No. You must realize that you have value and you must search to find someone who will pay for that value. The wrong attitude is to simply pretend that you are satisfied with where you are. You have to satisfy those needs because they won’t go anywhere. They will keep screaming louder and louder, until you respond to them. Have you ever wondered why your life isn’t filled with people who want to make your life a huge success? It’s because people are trying to fulfill their needs and create their own success. The wrong attitude is to believe that someone else can give you your happiness. They are searching for their own.

Gaining success with an MBA, or any degree, requires work. Define what you want and how each credential can help you get there. The MBA gives you knowledge, skills and abilities. It does not differentiate you from others. There are 150,000 new MBAs every year. Your differentiation comes from the value you can provide to others. Your value is driven by your desire to build success, even if only one small step at a time. It is the accumulation of all of these small steps that put your career motion and move you further to your goals. The MBA is a tool that can be used to build a better career. You have to swing a hammer to drive a nail. Drive enough nails and you can build a house. Sure, it takes time and effort…but it’s worth it. It meets needs. Professionals that don’t achieve all they choose to do so because they accept it. I know what you’re thinking…but what about this?….but what about that?….but, but, but. “But” is the argument for your limitations. When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them. Define your needs, then go fulfill them. The solution lies within your drive and determination. When you stop, so does your career. Let your actions define you. Go get your success now. Never be satisfied.

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